I’d always wanted to write a story based around fifth century north north Welsh myths, which resulted in ‘The Doe and the Dragon’.
My background is in the novel’s time and place, and it was important to me both to get the legends right, and to write something historians would find at least plausible. Blending the mixture of history and legend, and also getting the ‘facts’ straight, was one of the most enjoyable parts of the writing. Getting the people right was particularly fun.
The story is placed in the generation before King Arthur, and features those Arthurian characters who also appear in the rich Welsh legends. So, which characters who Arthur would have known, are included?
- Uther Pendragon, Arthur’s father. I ‘used’ Einion of Gwynedd, who is a a shadowy figure from the fringes of history. As he lived around the right time, and has the epithet ‘Yrth’ (‘the Impetuous), Einion Yrth has been tentatively equated with the similar ‘Uther’ by some historians.
- Merlin. The wizard plays an important part on Welsh stories, and surprisingly is one of the few Arthurian characters likely to be based on a real person.
- Igraine. Any story of Arthur’s parents without his mother would be unthinkable, but sadly she doesn’t get a mention in Welsh stories. I get around this by having a character (Breena, from my imagination) affectionately nicknamed Y Grawn (Welsh for ‘doe’) which is near enough to allow Breena to become Igraine!
- Vortigern. Okay, not strictly an ‘Arthurian’ character, but great fun as the period’s traditional bad guy and at least one story links him with Merlin. Almost certainly a historical figure who was important at the time, so Arthur would have heard of him and it’s not inconceivable they’d have met, although Arthur would have been very young and Vortigern near the end of his days.